What can’t Kyle Whittingham do?
He led his team to a perfect season which was capped off with an impressive win over then-No. 4 Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl as the Utah Utes crashed the BCS for the second time again after taking down Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl in 2005.
He’s sent 78 players to the NFL, including a program record with eight players taken in the 2017 NFL Draft — tying for the fourth-most in the nation. In 2010, Utah also tied for fourth nationally when they had six players taken in the NFL Draft.
The 2008 National Coach of the Year has participated in more Utah victories (194) than any football coach in program history, has the best bowl record and winning percentage in NCAA history (10-1) and holds wins over every team in the Pac-12 Conference since joining the league in 2011.
Yet despite all of his success and loyalty to the program, some reports have surfaced that Whittingham is on the “hot seat” thanks to Utah’s four-game losing streak in October. However, the Utes bounced back last week with a big 48-17 victory over UCLA, but that doesn’t diminish the news that some believe his job is in fact in danger.
Tenure: 13 seasons
2017 Record: 5-4 (2-4)
Overall Record At Utah: 109-54
Bowl Appearances: 11
Bowl Wins: 10-1
AP Top-25 Finishes: 5
Awards: National Coach of the Year (2008), MWC Coach of the Year (2008)
Despite averaging eight wins per season since the Utes joined the Pac-12 Conference, writers at The Oregonian believe Whittingham is on the hot seat along with UCLA’s Jim Mora. Below is an excerpt of the report:
“Utah’s losing skid this season has stretched to four games in a row after the Utes fell to Oregon last week and now are at the bottom of the Pac-12 South standings. So the longest-tenured Pac-12 coach is on a hot seat that’s only getting hotter. Utah swooned slightly when the program joined the Pac-12 in 2011, but then Whittingham guided his teams to AP rankings and bowl games in each of the last three seasons. Can he turn things around before the end of this season?“
To say that Whittingham is on the hot seat and that it is only getting hotter is downright laughable. The longest-tenured coach in the Pac-12 has done a lot for the Utah football game besides just wins and losses.
Yes, coaching is not what it was decades ago with athletic programs nowadays wanting immediate results with little time for patience and losing seasons. As the saying goes, “what have you done for me lately” is all that seems to matter these days for coaches who are now being paid millions of dollars every year. And because of the high stakes, coaching turnover at the FBS level is at an all-time high, with a majority of high school players ending up playing for a different coach then when they signed their national letter of intent.
While a majority of schools continue to go through coaches every 3-5 years, Whittingham has been one of the most consistent in the country as this year marks his 13th year as head coach.
Before being Utah’s head coach, Whittingham served as the defensive coordinator for 10 years and helped turn the football program into one of the most consistent programs out West. Despite having played at BYU, the head coach has helped the Utes win seven consecutive games in the Holy War Series and with that, have gained a big recruiting advantage in the Beehive State where more and more top schools are coming every year to recruit players.
Despite joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the Utes have not received a full share of league revenues until 2015. So not only did Whittingham take the Utes from the MWC to Pac-12 and become one of the most consistent schools as the Utes are voted as one of the top teams every year in the Pac-12 South Division, but he has done so on a much smaller budget compared to the likes of Washington, USC, Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, etc.
While Whittingham has not had a breakout year in the Pac-12 so far, he’ll still get you 8-10 wins every year which most programs in any conference would gladly take. Add the fact that he’s 10-1 in bowl games shows just how good of a coach he is.
Utah athletic director Chris Hill — the longest-tenured AD in the nation — knows just how valuable he is to the program and because of that, extended Whittingham’s contract this summer through 2021. With the new extension, the head coach will make $3.4 million this season, with built in raises of at least $50,000 for each additional year.
And if Whittingham decides to retire while under contract, he will then become a “special assistant” for 10 years to the Athletics Director in which he will serve as a consultant, do speaking engagements, fundraising, and meetings with donors and prospective donors.
Last but not least, the new deal also gives his grandchildren and great grandchildren big tuition breaks. So tell me again how Whittingham is on the hot seat? Because the only thing that’s hot is the athletic department’s pocket book as they do all that they can to keep Whittingham around for as long as they possibly can.